Archives For living

Soul

Soul is part of our heart’s connection to the depths of our being and how we are enabled to live this truth.

For me it is about colour, scenery, food, art, language, music and dance. What delights my senses, feeds my soul.   So much richness when we engage at this level.

I am not great at any of them but I love to engage with them.  Significant relationships and my faith also really connect to my inner being.  For others it may be about architecture, design and landscaping.  For some it is being a mother or father.

Does anything get to the depths of your soul?  What really makes you feel alive?

So my alphabet soup of life is almost complete.  If you would like to order the book and work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

Nature

Life is also about our connection to nature.  What does the word nature conjure up for you? For some it is a country walk and a picnic with beautiful scenery.  For others it might be about being cold, wet and exposed to the elements.

Having some sense of what is happening in our environment is healthy and nature is part of that environment.  Many studies show that we become a lot calmer when we have access to green spaces or the sound of flowing water.  This is an easy and often free way to recharge our batteries.  I am convinced that wherever we are we can find some connection to nature even if it is just going outside and looking up at the sky.

Like many of the other awakenings we have looked at you may decide that nature is quite important to you and this could affect your decision about where you live and the type of job that you do.  When I worked as a careers adviser I would discuss the impact of job environment – including indoor and outdoor work -with my clients.  If you enjoy nature you are more likely to become a farmer in a rural area than an office worker in a city.  An office worker in a city could still include nature by incorporating a short walk, going jogging etc. Looking after a pet, such as taking a dog for a walk, could also encourage engagement with the natural world.

I enjoy picnics and I have several friends who love camping.  I also like walking and for the past few years I have been getting into planting flowers.  There is something very affirming about planting something and seeing it grow.  Much of nature is free and available; we can enjoy it without owning it.

Are you someone who often pays attention to the changes in your natural environment or do you only notice the new buildings in your area?  Can you be still and feed your soul or do you feel uneasy when the birds sing and the rivers flow?

Here is a link to a current concern that you may find interesting and informative  The BBC on butterfly populations

 

Kindness is a good quality to practice on our journey through life.  The Bible talks about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  But there is also something to be said for being kind whilst not expecting anything.   Kindness is simply about saying yes to a request that we can accommodate or offering to do something that we know will help another person.  It could be as simple as picking up someone’s shopping, watering their plants, giving them a lift, phoning to check that they are ok.  It is about allowing someone else’s situation to cross our mind and allowing ourselves to offer to ease their burden without feeling superior or heroic.  It is sharing the gifts and resources that we have.

waterfall

We may also find ourselves on the receiving end of such generosity.  John Donne wrote that ‘no man is an island’ and it helps us to remember that our lives are all connected.   Unfortunately it often takes a tragedy to remind us of this.  Sometimes giving of our time and energy has more of an impact than writing a cheque.   I am reminded here of a television program called The Secret Millionaire, where wealthy people go undercover to discover real needs and later, financially support these.  I know they can get publicity from the show but as they already have a high profile in their field I do not think that is their motivation.  It seems to me that they want to help and to feel the joy of giving.  There are of course many who give of their time quietly through caring and volunteering.

Kindness is not about wealth.  We are all capable of giving of ourselves, whoever we are, wherever we live.  Is kindness something you experience of yourself or from those around you? Would you like to be kinder to yourself and others?

 

Appreciating who you are cannot be done in the time it takes you to read this post. I have included in these posts (and the book) some of the key things I have discovered in my life to date.  This is the result of my age, having lived in three different countries and my experience of three career paths including the study of psychology, sociology and counselling.  So it is an accumulation of my experience so far and undoubtedly part of my life’s journey.

Journey copy

What has your life journey been like so far and have you begun to make sense of it?  Is it all ahead of you or all behind you?  How does that affect your day-to-day choices?  For me I am grateful to my past and hopeful about my future whilst feeling that my current opportunities are good enough.  It is up to me to make the best of what is available to me rather than focusing on what is imperfect.  (Imperfection is part of the human condition and provides us all with opportunities to be vulnerable).  I certainly feel that I am now on my individual life journey even though I don’t know what happens next.  Do you have a sense of having a past, present and future?

The sense of life being a journey can help us gain perspective.  If we use the metaphor of travel then we can appreciate that sometimes we will like the scenery and other times we really want to get out of town.  Some paths are easy to walk through and others require us to accept assistance.  We may see others on our journey who appear to be having an easier or more difficult time.  Making comparisons can be a distraction to keeping on our own path.  We may feel we are running a marathon or a short sprint, doing hurdles or mountain climbing!   Henry David Thoreau says that ‘what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’

What opportunities do our journeys present for us and for those we meet?  How do we cope with the difficulties and the privileges?  What do we protect and what can we share with others we meet on the way?  Maybe we can only appreciate a journey when we’ve got to the end and reflected on where we have been.  It may be that we have time at the end to do this or it may be that others do that for us.  It does not matter; our journey is ours and no one else’s.

How do you feel about your journey so far – share your thoughts

healthHealth is something we all desire, and maybe something we do not spend enough time thinking about until we have suffered ill health.  I feel everyone should be informed and encouraged to look after their health from a young age.  There is a lot being done across the world but many people continue to ignore their health and pretend they do not know what to do.

I despair at the exporting of unhealthy foods from the developed world to the developing.  I am sad when I visit the Caribbean and see people replacing healthy local produce for mass-produced low-grade food imports.  This is particularly true of sweets where the homemade coconut fudge or nutmeg jam is thrown aside for a coloured chemical combination that contains no identifiable foods.

Like our health, we do not always value what we have until it disappears.  Because of the global economic climate many of us have rediscovered the joys of locally produced and home-cooked meals.  This is not only cheaper but often healthier as well.

Health is not only about the state of our bodies but also about our mental health, which covers our mind and emotions.  Our emotions show us how we are responding to things in our life. With good mental health we can make space for the range of our emotions, from despair to joy. No emotion is bad, it’s how we express it, or not, that is meaningful.

Be aware of what you pay attention to and what you ignore.  Some of us can be quite obsessive about one aspect of our health, such as our diet, whilst another area is completely ignored.  Take time to review how you take care of the health of your whole self.  It does not matter where you start but the message is to get started.  This is not about self-absorption but supports you to live a full and vibrant life. It is also generous as it  means you are more likely to be around for the loved ones in your life.

How are you looking after your physical, mental and emotional health?

Faith fateSome of us have faith and this belief helps to hold us in times of uncertainty.  Others believe in fate and that enables them to take an appropriate stance when making plans for their future.  What are we moving forward towards?

For each of us it is something to lean on and it enables us to have hopes, plans, goals and aspirations.  Neither approach guarantees predictability so we can only do our best and leave the rest up to God, fate or spirit – depending on our perspective on things. ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’ Martin Luther King Jr.

For some, mindfulness and being in the moment is the best way to approach life.  If your particular personality gets so caught up in worries about the future that you cannot focus on anything in the immediate present then it would benefit you to develop the ability to be in the moment.  If, on the other hand, you have a healthy respect for the present and can give it the attention it deserves then you might want to develop the ability to have an eye on your future and appreciate how your current choices might impact on your future.  Not in such a way that it paralyses you from doing anything, but just that you weigh up things and make the best choice you are capable of.

When I worked as a school’s careers adviser I remember some of the more academic students being particularly stressed about their future.  They expected so much of themselves that they seemed to want guarantees that, for example, a language degree would get them to the UN or a business degree would get them a career in the City of London.  Neither faith nor fate can tell us what will happen to us in our lifetime.  In The Soul’s Code, James Hillman speaks of life being ‘foreordained yet not foretold.’

So do you have faith in anyone or anything?  How do you keep hope when the evidence is not always visible?  Are you so scared of being disappointed that you believe in nothing and no one?  How does that affect your day-to-day choices?  Is this an area you would like to explore in more detail?  Leave a comment here and have the conversation with the people in your life.

 

Slowing down

During my recent holidays I found myself becoming more aware of my shifting perspectives in a variety of nuanced ways.  Reflecting on this I could feel myself letting go of certain perspectives and giving others more space in my consciousness.

So although I was worried about children ruining their hearing by standing near to loudspeakers I needed to let go of that because I could not stop it.  On the other hand it took a while to remember how friendly people are and to share greetings with strangers on the buses.

This may only be temporary but it was a good opportunity to shake things up and feel open to new possibilities.  Many people do this all the time whilst some are expecting their holiday locations to provide them with all that they left at home.  How flexible are you when on holiday away from home?So, what was I letting go of and what was I embracing?

Letting go of:

Fun at the fringe

  • Options for the day
  • Work tasks
  • Working and living environments
  • Regular ‘to do’ activities
  • Sources for news and information
  • Familiar viewpoints

Embracing:

  • New daily activities and routines
  • Different choices
  • More reflective time
  • Different environment
  • Having less control
  • Less familiar viewpoints
  • New ways of implementing familiar activities

I am sure there is nothing new here but by consuming less social media I had more time to connect to my awareness in my changing environment. This ranged from different conversation styles to modes of transport to bedtime routines.

Having returned to the familiar environment known as home there is time to reflect on this and what changes might be helpful.  Life feels like a continuous opportunity to fine tune our living, being and doing to be the happiest and most fulfilled we can be.    Often times having a break can help us see what we do well and what we do less well.  Some people avoid breaking away from their daily environment or routines because it scares them so much.

What do you think?  Have you made any changes to your living as a result of a recent break?

I recently enjoyed the film “A Man’s Story’, a documentary covering 12 years in the life of fashion designer Ozwald Boateng.  It covers highs and lows in his personal and professional life during that period.  His life is depicted as being full of continuous motion where he seems to have several projects on at any given time.  At one point he appears to be working in Paris and Los Angeles whilst living in London!  He certainly knows his passion and fashion seems to fuel him physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The problem is passion is not enough to encourage a balanced healthy life.

There are poignant moments in the film when he clearly desires an opportunity to stop and reflect but he is pulled, pushed, driven along by the commitments he’s made and something else deep inside.  It takes getting to the end of filming and watching himself on screen for him to reflect a little on his life during the 12 years of filming.  Hindsight often makes things clearer.

We may not have our own autobiographical projects but we also need to find ways to spend time reflecting and just being.  Constant activity is always about the next thing and does not allow for time to appreciate where we are now.

By stopping for breath we might also notice a conflict in what we say we value and how we actually spend our time.  I discuss this in my book An A-Z for your life; discovering and revealing who you are today.  Our values need to reflect the time we give to them.

 Weekends and holidays can be useful times to punctuate activity although these have become more action packed in recent years.  The counselling space is another place to stop, reflect and just be.  Sometimes painful experiences such as bereavement, illness or relationship breakdown force us to stop and see things differently.

How do you punctuate your life?  When do you take time out to reflect and just be?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.